French race walker Yohann Diniz (© Getty Images)
European champion Yohann Diniz broke the 20km race walk world record* at the French Championships in Arles on Sunday (8), clocking 1:17:02.
His time improved the previous world record by 14 seconds and comes just nine months after breaking the 50km world record at the European Championships in Zurich last year.
In a race that comprised 16 laps of a 1.25km circuit, Diniz hadn’t planned to attack the world record. But having recently returned from a training stint in South Africa, the 37-year-old was in better form than anticipated.
“After five kilometres, I was much quicker than I had planned,” said Diniz. “My coach just told me to stay in my bubble and continue to stay clean technically.”
He passed half way in 38:40 and then went through 15km in 58:00, just outside world record pace. But he sped up in the final quarter of the race, covering the last 5km section in little more than 19 minutes to cross the finish line in 1:17:02.
“It felt like I was flying,” he said. “I’m super happy and excited. I might be the best race walker in the world today, but I have to reach the podium at the World Championships and Olympics to end my run of bad luck.”
Diniz dedicated his world record to his current and former coaches, as well as the French team currently competing at the European Indoor Championships.
“This medal is for them,” he said. “It’s a shame race walking isn’t included at the European Indoor Championships, but at least my record will be part of the athletics weekend!”
Diniz’s next competition will be next weekend in Lugano, also over 20km.
Note: Sergey Morozov clocked 1:16:43 in 2008. Although it is the fastest performance in history over 20km, it wasn’t ratified as it didn’t fulfil the criteria of having the required three international judges present.
*Subject to the usual ratification procedures